Written By: Jamie Keown – Photos By: Justin Dobson
Admittedly I like new shit as much as the next guy… probably more. The marketing these days on new gear is genius. They shave an ounce off of last year’s boot weights or use a dab more resin and new a paint job on the latest rod and market it like the next best thing since sliced bread. Something inside of us all says “I’ve gotta have it”. Or at least something inside me does. It’s ok though, admitting to yourself that you crave useless gear is the first step in fighting the urge to pull the trigger on more shit that will inevitably sit in your closet collecting dust.
Last winter, after spending 7 plus years in my Simms Rivershed’s, I decided that it was time for an upgrade. I pondered on this decision for a while because those things had been damn good. At this point they look like they’ve been rode hard and put up wet (which they have) but they were still going strong. Wader technology I feel has vastly improved since the last time I had purchased a pair and I convinced myself that if I was going to buy new waders I might as well buy new boots too. So I began my search like every other civilian; on the internet. I knew that if I was going to drop some cheese on a fresh set of body condoms that I wanted the zip fronts so that I would have the ability to pee pee with ease. I compared the big name players and decided to go with the Patagonia Rio Gallegos Zip-fronts and the Rock Grip Aluminum Bar Boots. I won’t bore you with the wader or boot description. You can find that on the Patagonia web site. What I want to convey are the positives and negatives I took away after spending a year in the waders and boots.
The first thing I noticed upon receiving the waders was that the fit was a little more generous than my previous Simms waders. Not so much in the legs but more so in the chest area. I found this to be useful in colder weather as the waders were not so tight with layers, but in the summer they are a little too loose for my liking while just wearing a tee. I noticed lots of reviews about the shoulder strap suspension system being uncomfortable, but I didn’t notice this at all. (I assume these reviews all came from Colorado… damn legal weed.) The straps performed as advertised when converting the waders to waist high during the warmer months and I didn’t notice any discomfort where the straps meet in the back as the other reviews stated. My previous waders didn’t have a hand warmer pocket, so having this was like a savior on cold days. My only gripe is that only one side of the pocket is fleece lined. For 600 bones I feel Patagonia could have lined both sides of the pockets with the finest virgin fleece. Everything else about these waders is pure bliss. The fleece lined booties are wonderful in the winter and not overly warm in the summer months and the knee pads come in handy when making a stealthy approach. Some other manufactures have gotten away from using neoprene gravel guards and I have to say having the fabric gravel guard is a vast improvement. I’m not sure why Simms continues to use neoprene, because it’s pure crap. The gravel guards on my previous waders look like they’ve been in a knife fight and I’m not super rough on my gear. The zipper is also a thing of beauty. After one year I’m leak free and no longer have to shed all of my gear to take a wiz. All in all I would give the Rio Gallegos Zip-Fronts a 9 out of 10. I feel like the durability of these waders will be as good as others on the market and I feel confident that I will easily get many years of use from them.
Now for the boots. I have to say that I have always used felt. Some of the rivers we fish, especially the Chattahoochee River through Atlanta, have rocks that my dad would refer to as “slicker than owl shit”. I’m not sure if this is a good analogy but I can tell you it’s the closest thing to ice skating at times. I was hesitant at first to buy a boot without felt but I took the plunge anyway and purchased the Rock Grip Aluminum Bar Boots. The fit and finish of these boots is as good as any I’ve ever owned and after putting them to the test for the past year I can safely say that they perform as advertised too. The aluminum grips about the same as felt and maybe even better on algae covered rocks. The bars seem to cut through the algae and grip where felt may tend to slip. I was also worried about the life of the bars but after a year of use they still have lots of life left and we fish a pretty good bit.
Justin always says Patagonia is my brand crush and I guess that’s a fair assessment. Patagonia has been around a long time and has always made quality products. I don’t agree with some of the prices, but as far as waders and boots are concerned their prices are comparable to the other big names in the business. I’m definitely glad I went with both products and I hope this helps some of you that are in the market for new wading gear. I feel there’s always positives and negatives with every product. You just have to decide on the one that has negatives you can live with.